Collaborative Networks Are The Organization

I just finished a great conversation with Jan Twombly of The Rhythm of Business. This conversation was part of The Alliance Conversation series and will be available in the podcast next Tuesday. What made this conversation different from the other conversations in the series is the fact that we more focussed on the collaborative networks rather than alliances perse. It completely fits with my own vision for the future of business where I see that companies will more and more work together. For smaller companies networking often leads to doing business together whereas larger companies follow strict procedures towards strategic alliances. In the future I foresee these two blend into collaborative networks that have a greater agility than traditional organizations and will reshape depending on project, opportunity and skills needed.

A collaborative network is the collection of businesses, individuals and other organizational entities that possess the capabilities and resources needed to achieve a specific outcome.

In our conversation Jan put this future view already more in a perspective of Today with a great example of how P&G is already working in collaborative networks. It was only after the conversation Today that I discovered an excellent white paper on The Rhythm of Business website called “Collaborative Networks Are The Organization”. In this whitepaper Jan and her business partner Jeff Shuman describe collaborative networks, how the great Peter Drucker already forecasted these developments and how organizations are shifting from hierarchy to networks.

Jan and Jeff elaborate on five design principles for successful collaborative networks:

  1. Organizations and people only actively engage in collaboration when the benefit they derive is greater than the time and effort it takes to collaborate
  2. Collaborative networks are fit for purpose. The purpose determines how the network is structured
  3. Every network has a choreographer, the individual or entity that organizes the network and is responsible for achieving the purpose of the network
  4. Governance is the system for managing the joint and individual work of the collaboration. Governance principles have both structural and behavioral components
  5. Innovation in organization design requires innovation in management

The role of the choreographer assuming the leadership is essential for the network to succeed. The white paper describes this role extensively and then discusses the Boeing 787 dreamliner collaborative network to put it all in a practical real life perspective.

You can download this excellent white paper here from the Rhythm of Business website: in my view a must read for every professional serious about networking, organizational development, leadership or strategic alliances!


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